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Posts Tagged ‘Capitol Alert’



eMeg to Calbuzz: Get Your Own Damn Mailing List

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

As loyal readers know, our Department of Political Entertainments and Gemutlich Joie de Vivre has been pining by the phone for more than nine months now, eagerly awaiting Meg Whitman’s call in response to our courteous invitation for dinner.

We’ve been patient long enough.

Knowing that Team eMeg recently sent a letter to the California Nurses Association asking for their mailing list so that their candidate could have “a free and unfettered dialogue” with the group’s members, Calbuzz on Monday morning sent a similar request to the campaign’s communications shop, seeking their help so we can let her backers know what a raw deal we’re getting on the whole dinner thing:

“We’d like to get a copy of the Whitman campaign mailing list so we can communicate directly with your supporters,” about our invite, we wrote. “Please let us know when we may expect receipt.”

To our surprise, we hadn’t heard back by 2:30 p.m. and so sent a follow-up note:

“Did you send the mailing list yet?” we said. “Think it might have gone into spam.”

Still nothing.

So we finally bestirred ourselves to pick up the phone and call a high-powered, highly-placed campaign source to find out what the hold-up with the list was.

“I’m quite busy today,” the source said unhelpfully, if not volcanically, requesting anonymity on the grounds she didn’t want her name used. Besides, the source added, eMeg’s mailing list is taken entirely from the rolls of registered voters: “It’s all publicly available information.”

So we calculated the cost of mailing a letter complaining about the Whitman campaign’s lack of responsiveness to our dinner invitation to all of California’s registered voters, at 44 cents a pop: $7,469,893.64.

Sheesh. Couch cushion change for the Whitman campaign maybe, but almost a whole month’s worth of advertising revenue for Calbuzz.

Well, at least now we understand how frustrated eMeg must feel at the nurses’ totally unreasonable refusal to turn over their members’ personal information to her (not to mention that whole Queen Meg thing).

Believe it or not, the nurses group actually thinks a candidate for governor should show up at an event to address them in person. Maybe they should just invite her to dinner.

Update: The indefatigable Jack Chang reports over at Capitol Alert that the Whitman camp has now escalated its fight with the nurses union by launching a new web site attacking the organization’s leaders for spending money attacking eMeg.

The mouth that roars: Back when Jerry Brown was governor the first time, before indoor plumbing was installed at the Capitol, it wasn’t unusual to see him wander into one of Sacramento’s finer saloons, where he’d nurse a glass of white wine and hold forth to whatever collection of pols, hacks and press corps types happened to be assembled in good fellowship.

That image of Brown came to mind in recent days, when he got burned by one of his characteristically wide-ranging monologues, after talking to a radio reporter whom he happened to run into one morning shortly before the primary, while both were working out in the Oakland Hills.

Brown’s comparison of the Whitman media campaign to the Big Lie techniques of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels  went viral as soon as eMeg’s minions discovered it on the blog of KCBS reporter Doug Sovern, and her army of spinners did an excellent job of keeping the story alive for days after.

Putting aside the widely-known political rule that whoever makes a Nazi reference always, deservedly, gets in trouble , the most intriguing question about the flap is how an old-school candidate like Brown, who’s open, accessible, ironic, candid and seat-of-the-pants will match up in a long, internets age campaign against a closed, secretive, humorless and obsessively controlled and controlling corporate marketing machine like Team eMeg’s.

“There are many lessons to be learned here,” Sovern wrote in his blog, a few days after his 15-minutes had ended.

If you’re running for public office in the 21st century – watch every word you say, and where you say it. Just as the rest of us should assume that any email or text we send could end up being viewed by just about anyone, politicians should always assume that anything they say could be recorded or reported…Jerry Brown isn’t the first to learn this the hard way; he’s just lucky no one happened to whip out an iPhone or Flip camera and video our exchange, so the world could see him say those words, the way I reported them.

Seema Mehta cut to the heart of the conundrum in a good LAT piece examining the contrast between how Brown handled his snafu and the way Whitman disposed of a potentially damaging NYT story reporting on how Herself got angry, then got physical with an aide back in her days as CEO of eBay.

Whitman did no interviews after the reports appeared about the physical altercation. Her spokesman Tucker Bounds dismissed that as “coincidental.”

“Meg has public events planned in the near term, and I’m confident you’ll be speaking with her soon,” he said.

By contrast, Brown has barely stopped talking since his comparison of Whitman’s campaign tactics to those of Joseph Goebbels surfaced on a news blog June 10.

The comments have continued to make headlines in part because of the Whitman campaign’s efforts. Her large staff, which include veterans of presidential campaigns and teams of opposition researchers and communications specialists, has trumpeted Brown’s remarks, blasting out seven e-mails over eight days with the latest developments.

But Brown kept the matter in the spotlight himself simply by answering questions, a response that seemed reasonable but served to regularly give the story new oxygen.

Brown’s own small, Bad News Bears team of media advisers shrugged off the Goebbels matter as a no-big-deal example of Jerry Being Jerry.

They argue that, in the end, Brown’s greatest strength will be his authenticity, which they believe will match up favorably for voters against the zillion dollar artifice of Meg-a-branding.

Maybe. But there’s a difference between being a provocative, iconoclastic public intellectual and acting like crazy Uncle Bob at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a fine line that Brown would be well served not to cross.

PS: We note that eMeg DID take a question from radio yakker and Whitman sycophant Eric Hogue in which she blithely dismissed the New York Times story about her physically shoving an eBay employee as a “misunderstanding” and a “verbal dispute,” thereby basically calling the New York Times report a lie. Wonder if the Gray Lady is gonna stand by and let eMeg smack her around (kinda like they reported she did to Young Mi Kim back in June of 2007).

Arnold’s Alliterative Aspirational Adieu Address

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

stateofstate2The best commentary on Governor Schwarzmuscle’s State of the State Address came in the form of Capitol Alert’s word cloud.

Thanks to them, we know that Arnold used at least 31 words beginning with “P,” more than any other letter. For those who missed the SOS – and why wouldn’t you? – here’s the Calbuzz  15-word recap:

Pigs & pony
Persevere & prosper.
Painful priorities,
Prudent policies,
Privatized prisons,
Pension problem.
Patriotism!

The pig & pony show: Except for his opening, an endless and near-incomprehensible tortured metaphor comparing the Legislature to his household pets, the governor’s final SOS was pretty much the same as every other such address ever delivered (OCD memo:  pig and pony intro accounted for 269 of speech’s 2,947 words, or 9.1 percent). Aspirational in tone and theme, it included three mandatory elements: elevated rhetoric about the California Dream, a big heap of self-congratulation and a laundry list of legislative proposals.

The devil, to coin a phrase, is in the details, of course, so the real opening bell of this election-year session won’t come until Friday, when Arnold’s Department of Finance minions release their $20 billion deficit budget, and he runs like hell out of town.

“Every year, in spite of whatever challenges are before us,” he said in the meantime, “I stand up here and tell you how much I believe in California’s future.”

Exactly. In fact, he could have given the same speech back in 2004. Oh wait, he did.

Schwarzenegger 2010Let’s do lunch: The gov made sure to give lawmakers a little love, applauding their approval of education reform (of the small caliber variety), and of water legislation that calls for $11 billion in new bond spending (boosting the state’s annual interest payment obligation, the fastest growing item in the budget). Having invited them all to lunch at the Sutter Club, he tried not to spoil their appetites by dwelling on the unpleasant fact that they’ll once again be taking the deficit out of the hides of California’s least fortunate citizens.

“Which child do we cut? The poor one? The sick one? The uneducated one? The one with special needs?”

How about all of the above, governor?

Now there’s a thought: As for what he wants to accomplish this year, The Terminator’s best ideas were to “protect education,” whatever that means, and to put a higher priority on the UC/CSU/Community College systems than on prisons:

Thirty years ago 10 percent of the general fund went to higher education and 3 percent went to prisons. Today almost 11 percent goes to prisons and 7.5 percent goes to higher education. Spending 45 percent more on prisons than universities is no way to proceed into the future. What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns? It simply is not healthy.

No duh.

Two problems with Arnold’s big, blinding insight: 1) His notion for a constitutional amendment to require this policy keeps California locked in the same old ballot box budgeting box that helped get the state in the mess it’s in; 2) why didn’t he think of this earlier?

Most of his other big ideas were based variously on lies, damn lies and statistics:

“The worst is over for the California economy.” Really?

Even if you accept the argument that the recession is technically over, the lack of real economic growth in the form of new jobs, or a decline in the state’s 12.3 percent rate of unemployment, makes the case an empty, statistical claim, as everything from retail sales to real estate is forecast to sag at least until the fourth quarter in California.

“We cannot have a robust recovery while banks are not lending,” said Bill Watkins, our favorite, hard-headed economist. “So, fixing our banks should be our first priority. Unless we do that, we’re just going to muddle along.”

The feds will pay for it. Really?

Schwarzenegger is right to bitch that the state doesn’t get our fair share of federal tax money:

When President Clinton was in office, California got back 94 cents on the dollar from the federal government. Today we get only 78 cents back…This should be more fair and equitable.

Then again, if life was fair, Calbuzz would have big biceps and six-pack abs, too.

Even if the Obama Administration decides to back a too-big-to-fail  sweetheart deal for California, the odds of Congress falling in line in an election year, particularly given growing public concern about the deficit, plus the Anybody But California attitude on Capitol Hill, are slim. Arnold surely didn’t help his case with the White House by launching a surprise attack Wednesday on Democratic health care plans as “a trough of bribes, deals and loopholes.”

The Parsky plan will save us all. Really?conan

The one true outrage in Schwarzenegger’s speech was his demand that the Legislature pass the Parsky Commission proposal for tax reform — some nasty, secretive hide-the-pig-and-pony flapdoodle to which Calbuzz devoted a fair amount of attention.

I sent you the Tax Reform Commission’s plan in late September, but it seems to have disappeared somewhere under this dome. Where is it? Maybe the pig and the pony have taken it.

Or maybe it’s a dog-ass, half-baked, secretly-concocted, serve-the-rich scheme that’s been rightly denounced from every point on the political spectrum, Conan.

Views from the grandstand: Having utterly failed to end deficits or ease gridlock, the two big promises that swept him into office, Arnold is fast running out of time to try to repair his battered image, and it’s not going to help that every candidate for governor will rightfully campaign this year by pointing to him as a fine example of what not to do.

As political scientist Sherry Bebitch Jeffe put it, in a masterpiece of tongue-biting, understated, academic self-restraint:

The best word is ‘disappointing,’ and that’s being very kind. As governor, he’s accomplished little of what he said he wanted to do.

Not so diplomatic was California League of Conservation Voters CEO Warner Chabot., whose comments suggest that environmental issues, including Arnold’s own AB32 plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, could prove signficant in the 2010 campaign.

The governor has proposed an outrageous plan to gut California’s landmark environmental protection law with the false hope of job creation. Under his plan, dozens of communities throughout California will lose their constitutional right to question the health and environmental impact of major development projects in their backyard. The notion that we can stimulate our economy by making it easier to pollute the air that we breathe and the water that we drink is just plain false.

Senior Senator Dianne Feinstein joined in, bitch-slapping Schwarzenegger for blaming the feds for California’s problems:

It sounds like the Governor is looking for someone else to blame for California’s budget. California’s budget crisis was created in Sacramento, not Washington. These problems are not going away until there is wholesale reform of the state’s budget process.

Even the enigmatic, not-yet-announced Democratic candidate for governor,  Attorney General Jerry Brown, took a sideways whack at Arnold’s idea to save money by privatizing prisons.

I view with suspicion efforts to take a traditional public sector responsibility, whether it’s in schools or in prisons or maybe even in community health, and turn it over to a profit-making appropriation, particularly when it involves the coercive power of the state.

As a political matter, Schwarzmuscle on Wednesday was speaking, in his Landon Parvin-penned, final State of the State address, to an audience outside the Capitol, not in it.

But with three of four Californians turning thumbs down on his performance, it’s pretty clear they’ve already stopped listening.

Press Clips: Fun Facts & Fine Kerfuffles

Friday, July 31st, 2009

mbaldassareWelcome to the NFL: Torey Van Oot, the rookie California blogger hired by the Bee to juice up its online “Capitol Alert” (which has flagged considerably since the departure for the L.A. Times of the indefatigable Shane Goldmacher) set off a fine kerfuffle Thursday over polling, politics and the smash-mouth issue of offshore oil drilling in California.

Van Oot put up an early morning post about the new PPIC poll’s finding that a majority of Californians now favor offshore oil drilling. The item included an attack on the institute’s survey methodology by anti-drilling Assemblyman Pedro Nava, who called the results “completely worthless” and opined that “PPIC should find another line of work, if this is the best they can do.”

For those who know PPIC president Mark Baldassare (along with the Field Poll’s Mark torey22DiCamillo) as one of the smartest, most trustworthy and thoughtful pollsters in the nation, Nava’s wild man act was an hysteric, over-the-top, shoot-the-messenger rip job that ignored the rather important facts that a) PPIC has been asking the same question since 2003 and b) there’s undeniable evidence throughout their data that a significant shift in public opinion on the offshore issue has taken place (primarily among independents).

The piece was notable for one other reason: it carried not a word from Baldassare, or anyone at PPIC, responding to Nava’s charges, although he  directly assailed the professionalism and competence of the San Francisco-based outfit.

A few hours later, apparently after Baldassare and the Bee Blogger had a full and frank exchange of views, Van Oot posted an update that included a 243-word response from the pollster, which looked like a billboard slapped up on the page, setting the record straight about his methodology:

“At the end of the day, we feel it’s our obligation to as accurately as possible reflect the opinions of all Californians in our polling, so particularly on controversial issues like this one, we take special care to use national survey questions and repeat questions over time to give us a sense of whether opinions are changing,” he concluded.

A feperry white 2w hours after that, Nava issued a press release walking back his direct criticism of PPIC. Transforming himself into a journalism critic, he instead insisted that the media had “misled” the public by writing too narrowly about the offshore drilling question instead of taking a broader approach to other data about environmental issues that “should have been the focus of yesterday’s stories.”

Yo! Perry White! Here’s a tip from the political desk: When you’re in a hole, first stop digging.

World’s First Legislator: The Handbook of Political Writing Cliches requires that all stories about California’s budget include at least one use of the phrase “draconian cuts,” as confirmed by a random check of recent budget yarns in the Bee-minus, the Chron and the By God L.A. Times, as well a quick Google search of “draconian cuts California budget” (126,000 hits).

Ever desperate for a fresh angle, Calbuzz assigned our highly trained and highly paid Department of Evolutionary Linguistics to get to the bottom of this hoary phrase. A wide-ranging investigation, including an in-depth check of Wikipedia, revealed that it derives, neither from Harry Potter pal Draco Malfoy nor Star Wars Imperial Knight Antares Draco, but rather from the uni-named Draco, credited as “the first legislator of ancient Athens.”

Besides his more or less direct responsibility for the free cars, per diem payments and fulltime salaries for part-time work afforded today’s California lawmakers, Mr. Draco also laid down the first written constitution, a rather harsh collection of laws that required debtors to be forced into slavery and called for capital punishment for even minor offenses.

Draco, according to Plutarch, “when asked why he had fixed the punishment of death for most offences, answered that he considered these lesser crimes to deserve it, and that he had no greater punishment for more important ones.”

Ouch.

Eventually karmic justice caught up with Draco, who reportedly died after a demagogic performance at the Aeginetan theatre, when his supporters, in a traditional sign of approval,  “threw so many hats and shirts and cloaks on his head that he suffocated, and was buried in that selfsame theatre.”

Now there’s an idea for a ballot initiative to rein in the Legislature.

More fun facts about language: Calbuzz’s political correctness antennae stood straight up when the redoubtable David Dayen over at Calitics referred to our most recent budget rant, not once but thrice, as “shrill.”

Now while it’s true that the members of the Calbuzz Executive Content Production Team are not technically, well, of the female persuasion, we have been around long enough to know that calling someone “shrill” is just asking to be denounced by sensitive souls, such as ourselves, for some type of “phobia” or “ism.”

But now comes Dayen, graciously concealing his smirk at our utter lack of hipness, to disclose that “shrill” represents a compliment in what you call your online blogging community, high praise for cutting to the bone instead of mealy-mouthing an issue, as explained here.

So little time, so much to learn.

How to fix California: A prolific sort, Dayen churned out an excellent thumb-sucker on a California constitutional convention, one of a pair of intriguing posts this week that highlight the vast ideological divide over the ways and means needed to fix the state.

Chris Reed over at Politicker offered the second, a brisk policy prescription for the excessive spending and trough-feeding public employees whom he perceives as the fundamental cause of the Mess in Sacramento, a package which includes a tight spending cap, pension reform and restrictions on political donations by unions.To Dayen, though, the problem is much more one of structure: “Right now, we have a progressive legislature and a conservative system, which frustrates efforts at accountability.”

And there it is, spectator sports fans: two looks at the dysfunction of state government from opposite ends of the telescope, a case study of the political chasm a con con will have to confront and bridge.

Lou_Cannon-175Must reads of the week: For those looking for one piece on California’s woe that puts it all together, Lou Cannon offers up a smart and stylish overview on Politics Daily that shows why he’s a Hall of Fame political writer…Nice scooplet by Anthony York at Capitol Weekly, who reports that the final vote on last week’s defeat of Arnold’s offshore oil drilling proposal mysteriously disappeared from the official record of the Assembly….Finally, Kevin Roderick, the City of Angels bard who never sleeps, dashed off this very Calbuzz kind of item that demonstrates the true power and importance of links:

Best city for deli: L.A.?

From the Jewish Journal’s food blog, posted by editor Rob Eshman:

‘I just got a peek inside David Sax’s new book, “Save the Deli,“ due out Oct. 19, and can report that it is official: L.A. is the best deli city in America.

Bite that, New York….’”

Poizner Attack on Whitman Was Negative but NOT Dirty

Friday, April 17th, 2009

There are strategic and tactical reasons to question whether it’s a smart move for Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner to attack former eBay CEO Meg Whitman this early in the Republican primary race for governor. But Poizner’s fusillade was NOT dirty.

You can call it negative, tough, slashing, brutal, whatever, but we strongly disagree with this characterization on the very fine SacB site Capitol Alert: “With still more than 400 days until votes are cast, the GOP primary for governor is already starting to get dirty.”

No it’s not. Dirty is where you lie about your opponent, use below-the-belt personal information, make unfair charges, distort their record, etc. We don’t like dirty campaigning and when we see it, we’ll throw a red flag. But by holding Whitman’s leadership at eBay up to scrutiny, Poizner has done nothing dirty. It’s especially appropriate when a candidate comes out of the business world — and Poizner’s business background is fair game, too — because that’s the candidate’s record.

A political campaign for governor of California is not a dinner party. It’s a rough and tumble affair in which candidates should not be demonized by goody-twoshoes, holier-than-thou commentary or news reports. People are so cynical about politics already and it’s so easy to use a charge of “dirty campaigning” in a TV ad, that it’s important for those of us on the sidelines to make distinctions between dirty and slimy campaign tactics and legitimate, tough, negative campaigning.

We’re just sayin’.

Friday Fishwrap: Gossip on Who’s Hot, Cheap Shots, Three Dots

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Who’s better on Prop 1A? Steve Poizner gained a step on Meg Whitman this week in the Republican primary race to the right, with his aggressive moves aimed at grabbing the mantle of Leading Scourge of 1A. Poizner put together a nice cross-platform bit of political marketing that combined his ”Not Another Dime” website (join the Facebook group!), an Orange County campaign event and suck-up drop-by appearance on the John & Ken show that sent a clear message aligning him with anti-1A conservatives. Ms. Meg meanwhile seemed content to rest on the, um, laurels of her dozzzzzzy old op-ed on the subject in the Sac Bee; hasn’t anyone told her newspapers are dead? Key question remains: which of the zillionaires will be the first to throw down big bucks of their own for the air war against 1A? . . .

Visual scoop of the week: Shane Goldmacher, who runs the Bee’s terrific Capitol Alert online feature, seems like the hardest working man in show business. His best coup this week was scoring that color photo of GOP senator Tony Strickland suited up to join the L.A. Lightning of the International Basketball League for their season opener. At 6’5” Strickland was a serious baller at Whittier College, Big Dick Nixon’s alma mater where he played small forward (Strickland, not Nixon) and broke the school’s single game scoring record. But this posed photo looks like a ’50s dork in the high school yearbook, who’s in critical need of a sun lamp. As for those jiggly arms, where’s Michelle Obama when you need her? . . .

This just in: California’s best hope for economic recovery now appears to lie in the Democratic primary race for attorney general, where campaign consultants are lining up around the block to cash in on a field of no less than seven wannabes maneuvering to be the state’s top cop. With S.F. DA Kamala Harris, L.A. city attorney Rocky Delgadillo and most of the male population of the state Assembly already signed up to run, Santa Monica councilman Bobby Shriver, Maria’s brother and the owner of a full set of authentic Kennedy pearly whites, is the latest to sniff around the starting line. . . .

Elder statesman: Now that Ms. Shriver-Schwarzenegger has batted down the silly rumor that she might run for governor, those looking around for a long-odds, undeclared dark horse are keeping an eye on Treasurer Bill Lockyer, about the only Sacramento pol who’s acted like a grown-up in recent months, managing not to get too much budget muck splashed on him. . . .

Short-lived revolution: Largely overlooked in all the fuss about the governor’s free falling ballot measures was the news unearthed by PPIC poll-taker Mark Baldassare that support for repeal of the two-thirds vote budget vote requirement has also plummeted. Just two months ago, Baldassare reported that for the first time a majority of voters (53%) favored such a change, stirring hope among the liberal netroots and other progressive types that repeal might be possible. Now that erstwhile support has quickly crumbled, as only 43% favor tossing out the two-thirds rule, while 49% say it’s a damn fine idea whose time has not yet passed. . . .

Memo to Hank Morris: WTF were you thinkin’, man?